Ohad Naharin to Receive 2009 Scripps/ADF Award

Posted on 24 April 2009 by Deborah Friedes Galili

Ohad Naharin

Ohad Naharin.  Photo by Gadi Dagon.

Since 1981, the Samuel H. Scripps American Dance Festival Award has been bestowed annually on luminaries of the dance world.  From Martha Graham (the first recipient) to Laura Dean (the 2008 recipient), selected choreographers have won this prize with their lifelong devotion to building and shaping their art form.  The honorees have pioneered new techniques and ventured into unfamiliar compositional territory.  Out of their experiments emerged choreography that was not only groundbreaking but masterful.

With the exceptions of Pina Bausch and Maguy Marin, the Scripps recipients have been American or based in the United States.  This year, though, a third choreographer from abroad will receive the award: Ohad Naharin.  The award presentation will take place on June 25th at ADF in Durham, North Carolina.

Naharin, the artistic director of the Batsheva Dance Company, has left an indelible impact not only on the troupe he leads but on the larger Israeli dance scene.  Yet as his selection for the Scripps award suggests, Naharin’s influence is also felt beyond Israel’s borders.

Indeed, Naharin’s work has spread worldwide.  Major companies including the Nederlans Dans Theater and the New York-based Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet have performed his critically acclaimed and captivating choreography.  Juilliard students have learned several of Naharin’s works over the years, while young dancers in Sweden recently presented Kamuyot. And of course, the Batsheva Dance Company itself has toured around the globe with a tempting menu of Naharin’s visual delights.

Naharin’s consistently well-crafted composition and clever challenges to choreographic convention would be enough to launch him into the stratosphere of contemporary dancemakers worthy of the Scripps award.  But this artist also made his mark on dance training.  The inventive movement which characterizes Naharin’s work stems from Gaga, which the choreographer created and instituted as the Batsheva Dance Company’s primary method of training.  Daily Gaga classes in Israel and workshops around the world have introduced dancers – and non-dancers – to Naharin’s movement language.

Naharin’s choreography and innovative technique has caused ripples throughout the dance world, and his effect on a new generation of dancemakers is already visible.  Many of Israel’s independent choreographers danced for Naharin at Batsheva; though they have developed their own voices, their processes and products have at times been flavored by those of their former director.  Meanwhile, in New York, Gallim Dance – founded by Batsheva Ensemble alumna Andrea Miller – is making waves.  If the histories of previous Scripps honorees are any indication, Ohad Naharin’s already far-reaching impact on the field of dance will be long lasting as well.

List of Scripps Award Recipients

(From the ADF Awards & Dedications Page)

1981 Martha Graham
1982 Merce Cunningham
1983 Paul Taylor
1984 Hanya Holm
1985 Alwin Nikolais
1986 Katherine Dunham
1987 Alvin Ailey
1988 Erick Hawkins
1989 In memory of Doris Humphrey, Charles Weidman and Jose Limón
1990 Twyla Tharp
1991 Anna Sokolow
1992 Donald McKayle
1993 Talley Beatty
1994 Trisha Brown
1995 In memory of of Pearl Primus and Helen Tamiris
1996 Meredith Monk
1997 Anna Halprin
1998 Fayard and Harold Nicholas
1999 Pina Bausch
2000 Pilobolus Dance Theatre
2001 Garth Fagan
2002 no recipient
2003 Maguy Marin
2004 Eiko and Koma
2005 Bill T. Jones
2006 Murray Louis
2007 Mark Morris
2008 Laura Dean
2009 Ohad Naharin

Related articles about Ohad Naharin’s choreography on Dance In Israel

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